Return to Transcripts main page

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

Parts Unknown: Thailand

Aired June 01, 2014 - 21:00   ET



ANTHONY BOURDAIN, TALKING ABOUT THAILAND: I remember the moment I first realized I've been living my whole life in black and white. It was like discovering a color I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colors, that was it for me. From then on, there was no putting the pieces back together. No going home. Things were different now. Asia had ruined me for my old life.


I took a walk through this beautiful world felt the cool rain on my shoulder found something good in this beautiful world I felt the rain getting colder. Sha La La La La Sha La La La La La Sha La La La La Sha La La La La La La





BOURDAIN: Oh, that's good. Trying to kill us. They make more than 100 bottles a day so 30,000 bottles. That's a lot of -- did I do that right? Or have I had too many whiskeys? How did this happen? How did I get here?


BOURDAIN: Coming into focus, the man across the table. He looks familiar. Maybe if I can remember who he is, it will be a clue as to where I am.


BOURDAIN: Right. Andy. Andy Ricker. The white guy who cooks awesome Thai food.

ANDY RICKER, THAI FOOD COOK: Pretty spicy? Put that in there.

BOURDAIN: The Pok Pok in Portland, restaurants in New York. Andy has made a name for himself faithfully reproducing the cuisine of Northern Thailand. The good stuff comes from places like here. Rice country. Chiang Mai Province. In this part of the world, you live and die by the harvest. Thai food is intensely regional. In Northern Thailand in particular, has many distinctive features. This is a world of fresh, delicious, spicy, meaty, salty, sour, sweet, bitter. Often with a just-picked herby dimension. And always the most vital thing, giver of life, sticky rice. Andy here is constantly back and forth from America to Thailand, for nearly 25 years now, looking for recipes, techniques, digging deeper and deeper into an amazingly complex and widely misunderstood cuisine. And getting his ass chastised by a few aunties as he goes. On this trip, Andy's working on a new cook book, investigating the eating and drinking culture of the region. Which might be why he thought of me and why we're drinking shine for breakfast. Where there's food, there's also going to be booze. And likely, a lot of it.

RICKER: This is Nempik Ong. We make a chili paste with chilies, garlic, shallot, shrimp paste and tomatoes. And then you mix it with pork.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's for you. OK.

BOURDAIN: Oh, yeah. I think it's awesome.

RICKER: Isn't it delicious? This rice is grown here in the village. You just kind of make a little spoon-shaped ball with it.

BOURDAIN: Now, what's the famous greeting? Is it have you eaten yet or have you had rice?

RICKER: It's both. Literally it means have you eaten rice yet. But what it literally means is how's it going.

BOURDAIN: It is assumed that if you haven't eaten yet, things are not going well. If you have eaten, rice is such a fundamental component.

RICKER: Eating is synonymous with eating rice. To eat a meal without rice would be unthinkable.

BOURDAIN: What makes their whiskey seem special?

RICKER: Because of the flavoring that they add to it.

BOURDAIN Conveniently, our hosts in addition to having provided us with a fine meal, just so happen to run a distillery out back.

RICKER: They use a spice mixture they add to the yeast balls, let it ferment for five days, and then she smashes it with a wood mallet.

BOURDAIN: Thai rice whiskey, Lao khao, bucket of hooch, whatever you want to call it, this stuff is a delightful beverage that taste better and smoother, apparently, the more you drink. Here we go.

RICKER: And then fried fish. I believe it's called Nile tilapia or Nile carp. It s salt the hell out of it and deep fry it.

BOURDAIN: Good stuff. Hmm.


BOURDAIN: This guy's trying to kill us.





BOURDAIN: For your uncle, yes.

RICKER: 69 years old.

BOURDAIN: Looking good.

RICKER: He drinks half a bottle every day. So, it's pretty much the Keith Richards health and preservation plan.

BOURDAIN: All right. Will we get healthy, too. The whiskey, I have to say, is taking hold. In some clinically fascinating ways.


RICKER: I lost the plot.

BOURDAIN: Oh, that's OK. It all comes back to me as the world shifts and tilts.


BOURDAIN: Although I'd been looking out a lot of hotel windows these days struggling to figure out where I am, being here, throwing back shots of rice whiskey with these guys, I know I'm back in Thailand.


BOURDAIN: Not just Thailand, but Northern Thailand. Once known as kingdom of a million rice fields, it's a fertile, green and gorgeous area, home of the ancient Latta people. Welcome to Chiang Mai Province, tucked up near the borders of Burma, China, Laos, India not too far away. All of them have left their mark on the food.

RICKER: Here's the local hooch.

BOURDAIN: And if you're eating here, chances are, you're also drinking.

RICKER: Compared to the stuff we had this morning, this is substantially more harsh, I would say. And less fragrant.

BOURDAIN: The village of May Yon. In this place is called Hin Tang. How did you find this place? We're in the middle of nowhere.

RICKER: It's a very popular place. BOURDAIN: A restaurant showcasing one of the distinguishing elements of Northern Thai cuisine, the heavy use of animal protein.

RICKER: You see the local people, they're ling up. Here in Northern Thailand, pig reigns supreme. So, most of the stuff we're eating here is made out of pig.

BOURDAIN: What did you order?

RICKER: Grilled pig tail.

BOURDAIN: That sounds superb.

RICKER: Yep. And then we ordered some sai oua(ph) Northern Thai herbal pork sausage.

BOURDAIN: Oh, yeah, I'm on that.

RICKER: Brain. Some pig's brain.

BOURDAIN: Yeah. I'm not a big brain fan. A custardy sort of texture, coupled with this sort of nutty taste. Frankly, I'd sooner grab a big handful of nut sack, so to speak.

RICKER: It's mixed with a curry paste and some herbs and stuff, thrown into a banana leaf and then grilled. It's like eating scrambled eggs. You'll love it. Then we ordered new raw blood soup.

BOURDAIN: Raw. What do you mean, they don't cook it?

RICKER: They do not cook the blood.

BOURDAIN: They put it into a hot soup.

RICKER: No. This is raw blood.


RICKER: There's two kinds that you can get here. One is the addition of ki ang(ph) which means young shit. So, it's basically the partially digested juice that's made from when a cow eats grass.

BOURDAIN: Shit juice. Oh, geez. Oh, no. I did not order that. We're not having that.

RICKER: OK. We're not having that.

BOURDAIN: We're not having that.


BOURDAIN: I'm thinking we'll stick to the plain blood soup, thank you very much.

RICKER: The way that they make it is they take the raw blood and they scrunch it with lemon grass for a long time. BOURDAIN: Right.

RICKER: Because that kind of kills the gamey flavor of the blood, helps with the coagulation and adds flavor. Then they actually make chopped lab. That meats that's raw, that goes in. Bunch of deep-fried krunai(ph) or innards.


RICKER: Here it is.

BOURDAIN: You're not kidding. That's like a horror movie. Like CSI soup. I'm eating out of an open wound. Actually, that's completely delicious. Utterly delicious.

RICKER: That makes you look like a vampire. It's quite spicy. You can taste the chili. It doesn't really taste like blood. It just kind of tastes sweet and rich. Let's see if we can change your mind about brains.

BOURDAIN: Delicious. I'm not lying. This is delicious. Anyone would completely love this.

RICKER: You eat too much of it, you'll go blind. That's what they think. It has to do with parasites and all kinds of stuff.


RICKER: Can I tell you some stories.

BOURDAIN: Whoa, back up there. Parasites?

RICKER: Two or three years ago, a whole family in Nan Province, all seven of them died.

BOURDAIN: You probably should have told me that during the appetizer course, OK? Honestly, best food I ever had in Thailand, ever.

RICKER: I'm super happy to hear that.

BOURDAIN: I'd eat it out of (inaudible) jockstrap on a hot summer's day. This is CNN. Oh, god.


BOURDAIN: In Chiang Mai you can move in and out. From the quiet green of the countryside to just a few miles away, the madness and chaos of Chiang Mai City. Second largest in Thailand. Spirituality, reflection, the serene beauty of the rice paddy, village life. Maybe next episode. This time, it's all about consuming medically inadvisable amounts of food and drink. If Thailand is one of the best countries to eat in, in Chiang Mai it's a particularly good city to find yourself hungry. Oh, that's the frog.

RICKER: That's the frog. It's basically taking that frog, grill him first, hack it up, fry the living bollocks out of it with garlic. BOURDAIN: Mm. There's almost an inverse relationship, like the more hideous looking the dish, the more delicious it is. As you probably noticed by now, the food here is not Pad Thai or green curry chicken. There are complex layers of flavor, sophisticated balances, spicy, sour, a little bitter, salty, herby. Color and texture are important. Crispy, soft, cold, hot. It's exactly this interplay between elements that makes Northern Thai food so thrilling and so addictive.

RICKER: This place is called La Gouchung Cha. Larb is the dish that they're known for it's just a mints means solid(ph).

BOURDAIN: What is that curry material?

RICKER: That's one of the many stomachs of the cow. Might be the third stomach. Mine's bitter. It means it has a little bit of bile. The gentleman over there, uncle, he's the larb master. They win lard competitions. They're killing it, they're supporting a whole damn of family. The woman that just took the order, her family and her husband this guys who's a cashier, the uncle's -- when it gets really busy, the rest of the family comes and helps.

BOURDAIN: You famously said that you hate the word authentic. What does that word mean?

RICKER: Depends on the context. If you're in the United States and you say traditional authentic Thai restaurant, to me that has come to mean a standard Thai restaurant in America. That menu. When you come here, authentic is different. You're the daughter of the woman who made this, then to you this is the most authentic version of that dish. If you are from Nan province, you still make larb but it doesn't taste like this. A little bit different.

BOURDAIN: This larb is amazing. Friday night and Chiang Mai comes alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thailand, we will come. We love you!

BOURDAIN: Andy has promised to compressed eating and drinking grand tour of the city. A bounce by Tuk-Tuk from one place to the other until we simply can't take it no more. Next stop, it ain't flavor town. It's some place beyond that, man. Way beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Thailand and happy day here in Chiang Mai.

BOURDAIN: On your mark, get set, go. Cheers. This may surprise you, but I am not an alcoholic. I don't drink at home ever. There's no beer in my fridge. If I'm not working, I'm not hanging out in bars. But if I was an alcoholic, and I did hang in bars, I would hang here.

RICKER: Some karaoke, maybe?

BOURDAIN: Even though the very mention of karaoke makes my blood run cold with fear.


RICKER: Yes, I did.

BOURDAIN: Apparently it's indigenous specialty.

RICKER: In Thailand, it's probably one of the most popular menu items. They always have food to eat when you drink.

BOURDAIN: What is the whiskey we're drinking, by the way? I really haven't paid attention.

RICKER: The whiskey we're drinking here is actually rum.


BOURDAIN: This guy's good.

RICKER: It's one of the great things about a place like this. You'll never have to fill your own glass.

BOURDAIN: That could be me some day, I'm thinking. Things go just a little wrong, I go off the rails, this would be all too attractive. I could well see myself singing happy birthday in German to tourists at a hotel bar in Jakarta or Bangkok. I enjoy my time quite, this is a fantastic discovery. This is gonna stick in my head now, this song.


BOURDAIN: Chiang Mai at night. We are well on our way. To where, to what, I don't know, I don't much care. But I do know it's time to eat. In Thailand it's almost always a time to eat. Yes, and drink. We shall be doing that, too.

RICKER: The inevitable ice and beer. Way to drink beer in Southeast Asia.

BOURDAIN: Beer, you say? Oh, all right. In the interest of research, of course.

RICKER: You got beer, you got booze, you got ice, you got some grilled meat.

BOURDAIN: Snackage? Yes, I would like snacks.

RICKER: They've got pork chin and intestines. Got a spice dipping sauce. Ah, this is a Chinese liquor.

BOURDAIN: Oh, tastes like medicine.

RICKER: Yes. It also tastes like a dirty sock.

BOURDAIN: When did you come to Thailand first?

RICKER: I believe it was 1987. And I came as a backpacker. It was all about smoking dope on the beach, eating mushrooms, chasing girls and drinking beer. I had a three-month ticket and ended up staying away for four years. Here we go.

BOURDAIN: Oh, man. So, what was the dish? A dish in every traveler's life where they just said OK, my previous life is not gonna be enough for me anymore, you know?

RICKER: There's a particular mushroom. They make soup out of it. It was unlike anything I had ever had in my life.

BOURDAIN: When I first came out to this part of the world, noodles. I mean, I knew right then. I mean, I'm not joking. It wasn't the girls, it wasn't the beaches. The noodles, the greasy bottle of fish sauce and the smell. There's this terrible moment where you realize I can't share this. That's it.

RICKER: In about five seconds we will go past a woman who has a cowboy hat on.


BOURDAIN: The lady with the hat stands out among the dozens of street vendors across from the old city's north gate.

RICKER: The best Khao Kha Moo or stewed pork leg in the city. Potentially none finer in Thailand.

BOURDAIN: Yeah, are we going? Are we doing that? For years, she's been serving this. Khao Kha Moo slowly stewed pork.

RICKER: She cooks it in a master sauce,(inaudible) master sauce, where you cook it in the same thing. It probably goes back at least a generation.

BOURDAIN: Like sherry, there's a little bit of the original batch still in there.

RICKER: Exactly.

BOURDAIN: Just hacking dead (ph) meat all day and there's like not a drop on the frilly...

RICKER: This is a sauce that goes with it. It's kind of like a sour chili sauce. And then, you got to have some of these pickled mustard greens, too.

BOURDAIN: That's really tasty.

RICKER: This place is just famous as hell. Half the people here are tourists, probably Chinese tourists.


BOURDAIN: Let's do it.

RICKER: You want to stick your feet in some fish water?


BOURDAIN: All right. Let's go, guys. I need to stop at a sports bar. I need to have some chicken wings. I need to have some like fried mozzarella sticks. I need to go to a gun range, more beer, more food.

RICKER: If you go on the sidewalk it will take us like ten minutes to get 50 feet. So, kind of stay to your right and don't get killed.

BOURDAIN: What was I saying? Oh, yes. Beer loves crispy. Beer loves salty. Beer loves fatty. Spicy, salty, fried, together? Happiness.

RICKER: OK. No beer.

BOURDAIN: OK. What are they drinking?

RICKER: They're drinking water.

BOURDAIN: Clear, kidney cleaning water. So, good, and so important to a healthy lifestyle. I would imagine. Midnight nam prik num That's what you do after you've had a few drinks -- maybe a lot of drinks, meaning a lot of drinks, because what you need, maybe you didn't know you need it but you do, is Nam Prik, Thai Chili dip.

RICKER: Yeah. Nam prik is what the vast majority of Thai people who live in America who come to Thailand to visit and go back end up getting busted at the airport for trying to bring in.

BOURDAIN: We get two kinds. Nam Prik Tua Daeng.

RICKER: It's a combination of chilis, garlic, shrimp paste, dried fish.

BOURDAIN: And this.

RICKER: Colloquially (ph) known midnight nam prik num.

BOURDAIN: Create from roasted green chillies, accompanied by God's preferred delivery systems for beer-friendly goodness. A whole bunch of deep-fried little salty meaty delicious things, yes, please.

Yes. And something I loved from the first mouthful I ever had right here in Chiang Mai all those years ago, Thai pork sausage.

RICKER: Crispy, meaty, salty.

BOURDAIN: I love it. I want to rub it all over my body. This sauce is just so amazing. Somehow the thing you need right now. This is totally the thing I need right now. Oh, that's so good.


BOURDAIN: OK, come to me, my love, right now, you big nasty unfamiliar semi-cooked egg. Oh, that's so good. I once wrote your body isn't a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride. But that was before I had a daughter and a respectable job at CNN. So, when that little voice in my head, said call it a night, quit while you're ahead, I probably should have listened. Wait, where did we leave off? Ah, yes, now I remember. Bouncing to one bar after another.

RICKER: We're going that way. Which way?

BOURDAIN: That way.


BOURDAIN: Andy and I have clearly tuk-tuked our way well beyond the threshold of acceptable conduct. But we call it a night, quit while we're ahead? No.

RICKER: We're gonna head over to see a Time-Honored tradition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen...

RICKER: The lady boy cabaret.

BOURDAIN: Let's do that. All right. Here it is. Lady boys, as they're known in Thailand, have led to many an embarrassing moment for the amorous cowboy too buzzed to notice or care much about the details.

RICKER: My first experience with this kind of an atmosphere in Thailand happened in Ko Pha Ngan in the 1987. I met this girl and I was like stoked because it was like oh, she's into me and like at some point she sat on my lap and she's like oh, well, I have to go now, I have to go do something. She gave me a kiss. I was like I'm in.


RICKER: And the show started. You have to forgive a guy for making a mistake.

BOURDAIN: Many of the lady boys frankly are pretty spectacular looking, especially the ones who have breasts.

RICKER: You know the women are harshing the buzz. It should be a guy thing.

BOURDAIN: Absolutely.

RICKER: They should have a sports bar.

BOURDAIN: Actually, that's a brilliant idea. A lady boy show in a sports bar. You can watch football, drink a lot of beer and around beer number eight, bring out the lady boys.

Just my luck. At a show like this, what happens? Like she says. I end up kissing the one lady boy in Thailand who looks like Ernest Borgnine straight on the lips. Of course, I am completely oblivious to the day- glow white lipstick all over my face. Out of context photos of me here tonight end up on the internet. This could look bad. Watch the show. Oh, yeah.

Totally going home alone, by the way. Just want to make sure that's established to the company. In spite of all evidence to the contrary.


RICKER: Snacks?

BOURDAIN: Snacks. Let's go eat. This train has long ago come off the rails. One bar after another. It's time Andy and I head to an appropriate follow-up to a night like we've had. More food, quickly, this has become an emergency situation. There it is. Drunken noodles dude.

RICKER: Pad kimao is actually not a noodle dish. Something served with rice.

BOURDAIN: How can it be drunken noodles with no noodles? This is what we need, whatever it is.

RICKER: It's something devised for drunken people to eat.

BOURDAIN: That's us. Something to sop up the roiling tide of (inaudible) sloshing around in my stomach, and I need to sober up in case Ernest Borgnine calls. She said she'd call. I feel so used.


RICKER: I live in town, in the north they love to eat pork here. Look at all the damn chilis. There's a lot of chilis here. We got these fresh red ones. We've got these green ones that are sliced and stir- fried in there. Then we've got small green peppers.


RICKER: Whoa! That's hot. Whew! I breathed in, got hit with the chili.


RICKER: Down the side of the throat.

BOURDAIN: Yeah. You know when you have been really hit by super hot and you feel like having a brain hemorrhage? It's like an ice cream headache but like a pepper headache.

RICKER: Yeah. And your vision starts to tunnel out.

BOURDAIN: You're halfway through and you're aware that your hair has just burst into flames. That perfect balance of pain and pleasure and more pain, brain flooding with endorphins and all is well with the world, until tomorrow morning. So, I've had a couple cocktails. Maybe we should like totally get a tattoo tomorrow, man.

RICKER: Magic tattoos.

BOURDAIN: Time for bed.

So, I woke up in a state of confusion and deep concern after inadvertently making out with Ernest Borgnine last night. I have spiraled into some identity crisis. Inadvertently making out with Ernest Borgnine, I would like to say. It was very dramatic. I need to go to a strip club and watch a football game, mow the lawn and barbecue all at the same time. I hope some of you moved on. I don't mean that in a figurative way. I can't talk. It hurts to talk. Get out. Every region has sort of an iconic dish. They're talking the word of Thailand, Chiang Mai. This is it, hearty broth of curry, coconut, noodles and spices. I'm all over that. Oh, yeah. Mm. Needs some more onions. The boys at the bar tonight are going to be in for a surprise if they move in for a smooch. Damn, that's good. I am a big believer in a healthy nutritious breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day. My doctor said that. Of course, he also said that just about everything I love and hold dear is killing me, so what does he know. Attention, hippies. This is a salad. Clean papaya salad, that's not really a local thing. It's a piece of something but I couldn't resist. Spicy papaya salad, some (inaudible) I got to find a Catholic church. Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I kissed a man on the mouth. Oh, it burns like the fires of hell. Burn away sin. Burn away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOURDAIN: OK. Last mealtime, last lap, stagger across the finish line.


BOURDAIN: Andy's favorite spot in Chiang Mai. A family-run restaurant named Auntie Deng's Hammered Meat, and the jokes pretty much write themselves, folks.


BOURDAIN: No, every year, every year. Andy has been coming here forever since it was only Auntie Deng's slightly slapped meat. He is practically family.








BOURDAIN: Hammered meat here anyways, beef or pork has been charcoaled grill and pulverized in rope beef thread (ph) and then given a distinct texture and served with spicy chili in galongo (ph) dip.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) RICKER: Oh, so, I guess that I have been accepted by the family, and I will be living in the house here next door, and my job is going to be to smash beef with the hammer every night, probably for the rest of my life.



BOURDAIN: This woman has expectations, dude.

RICKER: I am in deep, deep trouble.

BOURDAIN: It is pretty obvious. What if they didn't pound it before they cook?

RICKER: It wouldn't look like that if they didn't pound it before they cooked it. The whole idea...


BOURDAIN: Classic. Mm. That's good.

RICKER: Chewy. Hmm. Still chewy, and still chewing.

BOURDAIN: And because Andy is a VIP and potential future son-in-law, dad is sporting his 40 amulets with protection, brings out the chef's special, a bitter soup with buffalo tendon (inaudible). That doesn't sound good. Oh, that is addictive right away.

RICKER: Deep and dark basis and you are getting some of the heat?

BOURDAIN: Yeah. You know, we talked about once you experience some of the sensory pleasures of the east, your previous life just isn't adequate anymore.

When the journey is coming to an end, when the movie is over, what's left to do? Oh, yes, wrap things up. I think, we've learn something here today in Chiang Mai, I can't summon what it is might be right now, you know, I was thinking of what Muhammad just said, you know, don't tell me what a man knows on what he says, tell where he is trapped, you will learn stuff. Maybe it is to remember to bring something to remove makeup before hitting the cabarets.

RICKER: Like, the first time I spent a long period of time in Thailand, that sort of greatness, the spiciness and the simple elements making kind of -- this bright explosion of flavors and when I got back home, I immediately like wished I could be back in Thailand.

BOURDAIN: Or maybe just say screw it, and have a good time. It is quite beautiful. Thank you so much.